The emergence of one of HBO’s Hard Knocks featured players in Cleveland Browns wideout Antonio Callaway has been interesting to watch. The rookie out of Florida wasn’t expected to see a big workload right out of the gate in 2018, making him mostly irrelevant from a fantasy football perspective.
But ahead of Week 2 of the NFL season, that all changed. The Browns made a surprising decision to part ways with starting receiver Josh Gordon, eventually trading him to the New England Patriots. Shortly after, Cleveland opted to name Callaway as a starter opposite Jarvis Landry, giving him a big opportunity.
The former Gators wideout flashed plenty of upside over 16 collegiate games, finishing the two-year span with 89 receptions for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, Callaway had multiple run-ins with the law, as Spenser Davis of SEC Country detailed. These included a credit card scam and issues with marijuana, among other things.
But in the 21-year-old’s first game as a starter in the NFL, he caught 3-of-4 targets for 81 yards and one touchdown. The upside became obvious and fantasy football owners took notice. With the Browns set to play on Thursday Night Football in an interesting spot against the New York Jets, fantasy owners have a tough call to make.
Start or Sit Antonio Callaway in Week 3?
When the Browns traded Gordon, it meant 78 percent of the team’s offensive snaps from Week 1 had to be split up. Callaway played just 17 percent of the snaps in that game, with Rashard Higgins (60 percent) outpacing him, as Football Outsiders shows.
And while both Callaway and Higgins saw a bump in playing time, the rookie jumped up to an impressive 81 percent of the snaps in a Week 2 loss to the New Orleans Saints. For fantasy football owners, this number is telling, considering he played four more snaps than Higgins.
While Callaway receiving just four targets last week isn’t ideal, it’s worth noting that even Landry’s targets (seven) were down from what we expected to see. The Browns will likely give both receivers more looks Thursday night against the Jets, a team who has allowed 30 receptions for 366 yards and two touchdowns over the first two games.
While those numbers don’t look terrible, the Jets also found their pass defense in some friendly spots over the two-week span. First, they drew a Detroit Lions team with Matthew Stafford playing banged up for much of the game, followed by a date with Ryan Tannehill and the run-heavy Miami Dolphins. Although Miami loves to run and Tannehill only threw 23 passes against the Jets, he still managed to complete 17 of them for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
This is probably the toughest call to make, as fantasy owners don’t get the rest of the week to read up on their other wideouts or see how injuries pan out. Before diving into season-long leagues, Callaway is an exceptional high-upside play in daily fantasy football showdown games Thursday night.
But for those fantasy owners who grabbed Callaway off waivers, it’ll depend on your actual roster. Odds are, if you’re in a 14-team league, then Callaway is starting for you unless the starting lineups are small.
But in 12-team leagues, you either need to have mediocre-to-poor wide receivers, an injury or two, or deep rosters with flex spots to roll him out. The other exception would be if a solid receiver has a brutal matchup, such as Panthers pass-catcher Devin Funchess against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Callaway’s upside is exciting, but unless you really need him to start, I’d give it another week and roll with your top wideouts. Don’t let the excitement of having a player on Thursday Night Football in your lineup impact your decision making.